A New Jersey school board doubled down Wednesday on its insistence that a fifth-grader's publicly displayed homework assignment appearing to glorify Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was taken out of context amid growing community outrage.
"We firmly believe it was never the intent of the student to promote antisemitism, and we must support this child and their family as the administration continues to work towards completing their discovery of all the facts," the Tenafly Board of Education wrote in a letter to parents. "There is no question that our administration will need to determine what went wrong, if and why the assignment for this class was different than the other 5th grade classes, and who bears responsibility."
The Board pledged the district superintendent would present her findings and recommendations to its members "once all the facts are known." At that point, the Board said it would act on those findings and recommendations.
The fracas erupted over an assignment completed last week by a fifth-grade student at Maugham Elementary School. The report, referring to Hitler, said "I was pretty great, wasn't I?" It also noted his unification of Germans and Austrians, saying "I was very popular" with only one reference to the antisemitism that drove the dictator to kill more than six million Jewish people.
The report was posted alongside others for several days in the hallway during April. Its display was met with outrage by parents who say the teacher failed by allowing the student to praise Hitler for his "accomplishments."
Some called Tuesday for the teacher of the fifth-grade class to be fired.
That same day, the regional director for the Anti-Defamation League said the group was shocked at what was being displayed and said it had reached out to the district to ensure that Holocaust education is taught accurately and respectfully.
In its letter to parents Wednesday, the Tenafly Board of Education said the events "on their face are horrible" and reiterated its zero-tolerance policy for antisemitism or any kind of bigotry in its school system.
"We know the profound and lasting impact this experience will have on our community, and particularly, on our students," the Board wrote in the letter. "We promise that this will be a moment on which to reflect and learn as we continue to mold and shape young minds to be teachers and thoughtful citizens of the world."
"We know we can do better, and we will do better," the letter continued.
Tenafly Public Schools Superintendent Shauna DeMarco echoed those sentiments a day earlier as the investigation continued.
"In the meantime, we are committed – as always – to cultivating a positive school culture that has no room for hate, prejudice, bias, or oppression. We are proud of our District’s actions and policies regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion and are committed to ensuring adherence to these guiding principles," DeMarco said.